Capacity for Evil and Good

Unbroken is a book about Louis Zamperini.  He was a track star before World War II.  Some thought that he would be the first to break the four minute mile but WWII intervened.  Instead Louis became a bombardier on a B-24.  He survived several bombing raids including one that left 594 holes in his airplane.  But while searching for another downed airplane in the Pacific Ocean, his plane was lost.  He survived over 40 days on the ocean with no food and water other than what he could gather.  Unfortunately the ocean currents took him to Japanese held territory and he was captured.  The torture he endured in various POW camps is unbelievable.

After the war Louis’ life was chaotic as he turned to alcohol because of what we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome.  He was converted to Christian when his wife essentially brow beat him into attending a Billy Graham meeting.  He forgave those who abused him and turned his life around.

Any philosophy of life must take into account the experiences of the Pacific POWs of WWII.  “They had an intimate understanding of man’s vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness, to inflict it.” [1]  I would also add it must explain why some Japanese guards resisted the mistreating of the POWs often at the cost of physical harm to themselves.  The same applied to the local villagers.  Some mistreated the prisoners while other helped them. [2]  Why was there such a different response to the POWs?

The motivation of some Japanese to help the POWs but others to harm cannot be Christianity because the Japanese guards and villagers were not Christians.  So what caused them to do what is right even at a cost?  Some would say this is an example of God’s common grace.  Then why do some respond to God’s common grace and others do not?

The answer is that God has given various amount of light to different people.  God will judge us based upon how well we live up the light he has given us.  Becoming a Christian will not necessarily get us into heaven.  What is necessary is that we respond to God when he convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).


[1]   Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken, New York:  Random House, Kindle Location 5608.

[2]   Ibid., Kindle Location 3134, 3146, 3777.

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